NotGraphantasy Draft: Baumann’s Earnest Best

Two days ago I introduced the first-and-only-ever NotGraphantasy Draft. Yesterday, Bradley Woodrum unveiled his team, the Woodrum Whiteys, and then Jeremy Blachman presented his team, and then today, Mike “The Common Man” Bates gave us the Bates-o-Matic Fun Machine.

Here is the roster for my team, Baumann’s Earnest Best (draft rounds in parentheses):

C – Gary Carter (3)
1B – Joey Votto (5)
2B – Joe Morgan (7)
3B – John “Bad Dude” Stearns (11)
SS – Henry Skrimshander (9)
OF – The Greatest (1)
OF – Glen Gorbous (10)
OF – Reggie Jackson (8)

P – Mark “Bird” Fidrych (2)
P – Pedro Martinez (4)
P – Bill “Spaceman” Lee (6)

Manager – Ron Washington (S3)
Executive – Billy Fucking Beane (S1)
Home Park – The Sandlot (S2)

Before I offer brief commentary on each of my selections, I want to say something about Baumann’s Earnest Best as a team, and the philosophy behind its construction. As the name suggests, Baumann’s Earnest Best is a team full of pathos and sincerity; the players/personalities live(d) life and participate(d) in the game in a way that only they could/can. Some met every game and every day with a youthful exuberance (here’s looking at you, Kid), some see every plate appearance as a chance to destroy personal demons. All of these men provide their own examples of intense sincerity, an awareness of self that, for better or worse, sets them apart from the world at large in a way that allows their public-baseball-being to be intensified.

That, I believe, was the guiding principle in the construction of this team.
To start, I’ll quote Dayn Perry:

Amazing energy and exuberance on the field. Made all these little coaxing and reassuring and almost paternal gestures to his pitchers all the time. Relentlessly positive.

About 12 yrs ago, when I was very new to all this, I called the Mets PR office to ask about interviewing someone from the ’86 team. “Gary would talk to you,” I was told. Called him at his office in Florida, and he talked to me for like an hour and a half. Gracious as could be to an absolute nobody. Just a good, good man by all accounts.

And now I’ll quote Summer Anne Burton:

Having relatively little memory of watching him play live, Gary Carter is, by virtue of his aura and the stories passed on about him, a player that, every time I think about him, brings me to the verge of tears. I’m not entirely sure why, and I think trying to explain would ruin it. I relish that feeling.

My admiration for Votto is already well-documented in these electronic pages, and as long as I am writing for NotGraphs, you can be sure that I will post regularly about [my love for] him.

His facial expressions and mannerisms make obvious his frustration with himself and his game, yet he is one of the greatest hitters of his generation. Often, to me, it appears as if he is disgusted even with his own homeruns, as if even the most perfect outcome of a plate appearance is not enough to satisfy him given the grind he puts himself through. Even a homerun — even a million homeruns — will never, ever be enough for Joey.

Joey is perpetually mastering his own fear of failure as much as he is mastering the art of hitting a baseball. Where we, as fans, might see success, Joey, perhaps, sees a random instance with no guarantee of repetition.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest players of all time, Morgan, in his broadcasting career, seemed to be completely oblivious to what made him so great, and that is what makes him great to me: a preternatural instinct and talent for the game, unable to acknowledge it directly. In some ways, that’s the opposite of the self-awareness that I look for when picking my favorite players, but for Morgan, that lack of self-awareness is so big that there’s a literary feel to it.

It doesn’t hurt that — i.e. I awarded him major cheatsheet points because — he was the subject of the greatest baseball blog that ever existed.

Mostly a catcher — a catcher that preceded Gary Carter for the Mets — I selected Stearns mostly because his nickname was “Bad Dude” and because he looked like this:

Actually, I’ll admit this: I didn’t know anything about Bad Dude before this draft. I really wanted to draft Norman “Turkey” Stearnes of Negro League fame. I was in the market for a well-nicknamed player, and Turkey was first guy that popped into mind, but he’d only ever played OF, as far as I could tell, and my OF was full. But a name search at Baseball-Reference returned John Stearns, too, so I looked into him. The [very literal] intersection with Gary Carter, for instance, was too much to pass up (per Wikipedia):

Stearns got the 1979 season started for the Mets by getting into a bench clearing brawl in the fourth game of the season. With the Montreal Expos at Shea on April 11, Stearns and Expos catcher Gary Carter collided at home when Carter tried to score from first on a throwing error by Mets pitcher Pete Falcone. Right fielder Elliott Maddox made a perfect throw to the plate to get Carter. Following the play, a fight broke out when Stearns felt that Carter unnecessarily threw an elbow at him. Both benches and bullpens emptied, and both players were ejected from the game. The Expos won the game in extra innings 3-2.

In this instance, Stearns sounds like a bully, or a whiner, but anyone with an affinity for Freaks & Geeks knows just how integral to plot — and just how fully human — whiney bullies can be. (Btw, that “whiney bully” in Freaks & Geeks was played by Chauncey Leopardi, the same actor who player Michael “Squints” Palledorous in The Sandlot.)

HENRY SKRIMSHANDER, SS (Fictional, from The Art of Fielding)
I often think that my own demise as ballplayer was more due to psychological shortcomings than lack of physical ability. (I’m not entirely unathletic.) Skrimshander was a kid who left everything else behind him, psychologically speaking, when he stepped onto a baseball diamond. Because of that, he was a literally flawless fielder throughout his adolescence. Only when that carefree focus was interrupted did he become conscious of himself in the game — and it ruined him. After I fielded a grounder (that part was relatively successful for me), I was immediately sacked by an awareness of context: the other players watching me, my previous fuck-ups, the potential change in game-state should I fuck up this time, and finally the realization that I was not long for the world of organized hardball, even if I could successfully complete that particluarly throw to first base.

I found myself getting angry at Skrimshander after his mental collapse as his previous dedication to nurturing his instinct for the game went to waste. But ultimately, that anger was not because I saw myself in him, it was because I didn’t see myself in him. I was never dedicated like Henry was, never worked as hard, always assumed that I would never be even a decent ballplayer. I don’t begrudge people who are extremely physically gifted — that sort of ability just wasn’t in my genes, so there’s no use in fretting over it. But reading about someone like Henry, whose success was based in practice and a psychological acquiescence to the everyday grind of baseball — i.e. things that I myself could have taken on despite a lack of physical excellence — reading about someone like Henry who then let that all slip away: that was infuriating. But that’s also why I loved him.

Rickey is the Greatest. The fact that I picked third in this draft and was able to pick Rickey means that some people still don’t realize that Rickey is the Greatest. Those people should no longer be allowed to write about baseball, or look at anything having to do with baseball. Just kidding. Kind of.

The man had a candy bar named after him. A CANDY BAR!

Also, he looked good in orange:

See my loving ode of sorts to Gorbous from February 2012.

Pedro got the most out of a tiny frame; indeed he was one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, if not of all time. He is pretty ugly, and his hair is wonderfully hideous. He loves a good cock fight. His taste in actresses is questionable, but his candor more than makes up for it. I’d really like to hang out with him, so I thought maybe if I drafted him…

Plus, I’m always looking for an excuse to post this perfect portrait of Pedro by Craig Robinson:

I named my cat after him. MY CAT!

No big deal.

Watch this, maybe.

Look at this, then:


I felt my team needed a serious dose of jiggle — and a reliable source of amphetamines. Also, we know that Ron works well with Billy Beane…

BILLY BEANE, Executive
Sorry to take another shortcut: please consult my various odes of love to Billy here, here, and here.


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